Today, I’m going to get a little personal. I’m going to talk about dating. Online dating, to be exact.
See, I’ve had my fair share of experience with online dating. When you’re out of school and in the “real world,” it becomes surprisingly hard to meet date-able people. Enter, online dating. It’s how I met BF. It’s how I met my boyfriend before BF. It’s how so many of my friends met their boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancées, and spouses.
Because this is a personal finance blog, of course I’m going to bring online dating back to money. You can spend a lot of money registering for one or many of the myriad online dating sites that are out there. You can then spend a lot of money going out on dates with many potential partners before finding someone you want to spend more time with.
You can also use online dating incredibly cheaply. These are my tips for online dating on a budget.
You need options
I’ve used a variety of online dating services, from eHarmony to OK Cupid and a few in between. eHarmony and some other sites I’ve used are paid (meaning you pay a fee to join the service), whereas OK Cupid is free.
In my experience, free is actually better, and here’s why. When dating, you need numbers. You need a lot of options to pick through. On some paid sites, there are only a few matches sent to you each day, or a few people within your age range in your geographic area. On free sites, there are so. many. choices. Because there is no up-front cost to join, more people join free sites. All these options may sound overwhelming, but I think it is good because it allows you to be picky. Sure, some dating sites advertise that they take the work out of finding a match by finding that match for you, but I’d really rather find my own match. I’m kinda better at it than you are, dating algorithm.
Of course another benefit to using a free site is that you’re saving money! Online dating on a free site can be even cheaper than meeting someone a more traditional way, such as at an event or a bar. No need to pay for a cover charge or drinks – you can meet people right from home!
Meet early and often
This tip is less financial and more about the cost of your time. It is easy to spend a long time messaging back and forth with someone on online dating sites. I’ve messaged with people for weeks before meeting them, becoming enamored with their personality and wit. Unfortunately, sometimes you meet someone and you know right off the bat that it just isn’t going to work. That is something that often doesn’t translate through email.
Because of this, my advice is to meet people in person after a few messages. Of course you can do basic screening online, but if a person seems like a possibility, go ahead and set up a date. Better to see if you click before wasting your time or theirs.
Grab a drink
When meeting someone you’ve met online in person for the first time, there are a few things to bear in mind. First, make sure you’re safe. It should go without saying, but always meet in a safe, public place in case the person doesn’t turn out to be who they said they were. For the record, I’ve been on quite a few dates with people I’ve met online and I’ve never had a safety problem or felt uncomfortable in any way (well, except for general first date awkwardness).
Second, I would recommend always meeting for a drink as a first date. The reason for this is twofold. First, drinks are less expensive than a full meal, helping keep dating on budget. If you meet a lot of people and go to dinner with every one of them, you could rack up quite a tab! Second, drinks take less time than a meal. If you know within the first 10 minutes that someone is a dud, getting out of there after one beer is a lifesaver. Of course if you really like someone, one drink can always turn into two.
Pick the location carefully
Beyond safety concerns, there are other factors to consider when selecting the location for a first date. I would suggest meeting at a place that is comfortable but not fancy. You don’t want to make someone uncomfortable by choosing a bar that only offers $15 martinis. I would also suggest picking a place that you don’t go to every week. There is nothing worse than running into a guy you went out with last week while on a date! Not that that ever happened to me….
What do you think? Have you ever tried online dating? Any other tips for online dating (or dating in general) on a budget?